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Mister Pip (2006)

by Lloyd Jones

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
3,2441733,020 (3.8)1 / 479
On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, on which survival is a daily struggle, eccentric Mr. Watts, the only white man left after the other teachers flee, spends his day reading to the local children from Charles Dickens's classic Great Expectations.
  1. 70
    Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (cbl_tn, HelenGress)
    cbl_tn: Mister Pip explores the reading and interpretation of Great Expectations in a late 20th century South Sea island culture in the midst of a civil war.
  2. 20
    Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2810michael)
  3. 20
    Small Island by Andrea Levy (kathrynnd)
  4. 21
    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (Booksloth)
  5. 10
    Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2810michael)
  6. 43
    Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Booksloth)
  7. 10
    The Other Hand by Chris Cleave (Booksloth, 2810michael)
  8. 00
    Jack Maggs by Peter Carey (suzecate)
    suzecate: both novels that revisit Great Expectations
  9. 00
    Wanting by Richard Flanagan (2810michael)
    2810michael: Mostly because of the role of Charles Dickens in both books...
  10. 00
    Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson (kathrynnd)
  11. 00
    Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard (bnbookgirl)
    bnbookgirl: tiny tim all grown up

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English (162)  Spanish (2)  Danish (2)  Swedish (2)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (173)
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
Uplifting but sad and not a book I will forget in a hurry. There are some great comments on the power of good books and reading and it certainly makes me want to check out "Great Expectations" again. Highly recommended. ( )
  Patsmith139 | Mar 15, 2021 |
Mister Pip by the New Zealand author Lloyd Jones offers a story of how one brave but unassuming man keeps his village together during a time of brutal civil war through his lessons to the town’s children. HIs biggest interest is in the book Great Expectations by Charles Dickens with which he mesmerizes the town’s children while the unspeakable horrors of war surround their tiny village.
The teacher, Mr. Watts had been an enigma to the town as its only white resident amid a clan of black local residents. He is an unlikely hero, yet provides the emotional rudder for the town’s people as they come into the crosshairs of two competing and ruthless jungle warriors.
His love of Dickens invades the hearts and souls of the children, most notably central character Matilda who never loses her interest of passion for Dickens.
The war surrounding the village is brutal. The towns people lose all of their possessions to the rebel force which later returns to even destroy their homes. Later in the story, the rival force wrecks even more havoc, scarring the children with nightmarish memories they will struggle with for the rest of their lives.
The book is strong in its portrayal of war, of the poverty of native peoples, of the beliefs and superstitions of the people and it portrayal of the violence they endure.
The book converts through its story a love of the works of Charles Dickens which he has portrayed through this engaging story.
I came across the book while visiting New Zealand where I asked a used book store owner for his recommendation. I was able to read the entire novel during the long airline flight I had after my visit to this gorgeous island nation had ended. Thus I returned home with both gift of a fine vacation, a good book and an author I would not have experienced had I not stopped into that bookstore. ( )
  Paul-the-well-read | Apr 18, 2020 |
"You cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames."

Mister Pip is a short book, little more than a novella but still manages to deliver a considerable emotional impact. Set amongst a little known recent civil war this sad tale of loss, betrayal and hope is an affirmation of the power of storytelling on, in this case, a young girl's imagination.

When civil war breaks out on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville, all those who can leave does so. Those who are left behind struggle to maintain their simple village existence in a war zone, repeatedly raided by soldiers and rebels in turn.

The book centres around Matilda, a thirteen year old girl whose father has long since left for Australia in search of employment and where she along with her mother was due to him before the escalating fighting made that impossible. With the school closed Matilda and all the other village children struggle to fill their free time and ignore the dangerous situation they are all trapped in until one day an unlikely source volunteers to reopen the school and teach them.

His name was Mr Watts but the villagers called him ‘Pop Eye’ for the way his eyes bulged out of his head. He is also the last white man on the island. Dressed in a white linen suit he, along with his wife Grace, has long been a source of fascination for the locals.

Despite having no teaching experience Mr Watts tells the schoolchildren he wants their schoolroom to be ‘a place of light. No matter what happens’. He invites various villagers to come into the classroom and give the children the benefit of their experience but also produces a copy of Dicken's 'Great Expectations' which he reads to them a chapter at a time.

As the book progresses the children are shown the ability of stories to transport us to another world, to Victorian England where they are able to escape the violence and uncertainty of their own lives. Each night the children retell the days reading to their equally engrossed families meaning Pip and his life become increasingly real for them.

Matilda in particular takes Pip to her heart feeling them to be kindred spirits. She too knows about having an absent father. However, her mother, Dolores, is distrustful of Mr Watts questioning the educational value of stories over real-life skills and as a zealous Christian she views Mr Watts and his stories as a subversive, godless, influence on the children, yet almost against her wishes she too is engrossed with the story of Pip.

As the villagers are increasingly exposed to the brutality of the war around them Matilda draws further into the world of Dickens and wonders whether she will have to choose between her mother’s world and Mr Watts’. When soldiers come to village a misunderstanding leads to their leader to believe Pip to be a real person, a spy for the rebels, who the villagers are protecting. The soldiers return on three separate but when the villagers are unable to produce Pip they are subjected to ever increasing brutality with dire consequences for Mr Watts. Matilda will witness loyalty and betrayal, heroism and vengeance, and will be surprised by what she she discovers about the people closest to her.

Short-listed for the 2007 Booker Prize and despite it's brevity, roughly 220 pages, packs a considerable punch. The action comes thick and fast and although the humanising importance of storytelling is the most obvious theme it is certainly not the only one. Colonial and post-colonial attitudes also come to the fore. The rebels are fighting for self-determination against invaders from the capitol. Matilda’s father left the island to seek employment in Australia, an experience that has inevitably changed him whilst Mr Watts’ wife, Grace, herself an islander who returned deeply altered by the outside world. Similarly the missionaries who gave Dolores and her prayer group their unquenchable faith causes them to battle for the heart and mind of Matilda and the other children against a more secular view of the world represented by Mr Watts’. Likewise the now defunct copper mine is seeping pollution into the local environ yet the villagers still miss the income and opportunities that it provided.

By Australian government estimates, the civil war took 15,000-20,000 lives, and was the worst conflict in the Pacific since the Second World War, and yet was barely noticed by the rest of the world but unlike that conflict this book deserves to be more widely read and known. Sometimes the best things come in small packages and this is certainly a little gem ( )
  PilgrimJess | Sep 1, 2019 |
Part fable and part true, set on the island of Bougainville, part of Papua New Guinea during a civil war. Matilda's village is black, except for one white man, Mr. Watts, He decides to educate the children, using Dicken's Great Expectations. Because it's such a treat and doled out in small doses, the story appeals to the children, making Pip almost real. Unfortunately, this has disastrous consequences when the rebel fighters and the red soldiers discover their village. ( )
  nancynova | Apr 10, 2019 |
A fantastic read. Set on a Pacific Island, the only white man left, Mr Watts, takes Matilda and her school mates to another world through Great Expectation while a civil war rages around them. Seen from Matilda's point of view, we hear about unspeakable things. This is a moving novel about family, home and self. ( )
  CarolKub | Nov 8, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
if “Mister Pip” is preachy — and it is — it’s also a book with worthwhile thoughts to impart. Mr. Jones’s ability to translate these thoughts into the gentle, tropical, roundabout idiom of his setting (“braids remind us that sometimes it is hard to know where goodness ends and badness begins”) turns out to be genuinely affecting.
added by NinieB | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (pay site) (Sep 17, 2007)
Jones covered it as a journalist, and this delicate fable never shies away from the realities of daily life shadowed by violence..... In this dazzling story-within-a-story, Jones has created a microcosm of post-colonial literature, hybridising the narratives of black and white races to create a new and resonant fable. On an island split by war, it is a story that unites....There is a fittingly dreamy, lyrical quality to Jones's writing, along with an acute ear for the earthy harmonies of village speech... Mister Pip is the first of Jones's six novels to have travelled from his native New Zealand to the UK. It is to be hoped that it won't be the last.
added by lucyknows | editscis (pay site)

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lloyd Jonesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hyllienmark, OlovTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riera, ErnestTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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'Characters migrate.' Umberto Eco
To my family
First words
Everyone called him Pop Eye.
"...you cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames." (page 155)"
"A Prayer was like a tickle. Sooner or later God would have to look down to see what was tickling his bum."
I do not know what you are supposed to do with memories likes these. It feels wrong to want to forget. Perhaps this is why we write these things down, so we can move on."
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Wikipedia in English (1)

On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, on which survival is a daily struggle, eccentric Mr. Watts, the only white man left after the other teachers flee, spends his day reading to the local children from Charles Dickens's classic Great Expectations.

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Book description
'You cannot pretend to read a book. Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing. A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe. The house can catch alight and a reader deep in a book will not look up until the wallpaper is in flames.'

Bougainville. 1991. A small village on a lush tropical island in the South Pacific. Eighty-six days have passed since Matilda's last day of school as, quietly, war is encroaching from the other end of the island.

When the villagers' safe, predictable lives come to a halt, Bougainville's children are surprised to find the island's only white man, a recluse, re-opening the school. Pop Eye, aka Mr Watts, explains he will introduce the children to Mr Dickens. Matilda and the others think a foreigner is coming to the island and prepare a list of much needed items. They are shocked to discover their acquaintance with Mr Dickens will be through Mr Watts' inspiring reading of Great Expectations.

But on an island at war, the power of fiction has dangerous consequences. Imagination and beliefs are challenged by guns. Mister Pip is an unforgettable tale of survival by story; a dazzling piece of writing that lives long in the mind after the last page is finished.
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Average: (3.8)
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1.5 2
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2.5 20
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4.5 62
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1921145579, 1921520248

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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